What COVID-19 has done to all of us, with no discrimination whatsoever since every single one of us is feeling it, no exceptions, is create a loss of any sense of direction. The virus has put us in a holding pattern, particularly with the second major lockdown (we thought we were over it!). And none of us is quite sure when we’re going to get out of it. We seem to be going nowhere. The lesson is patience, simply taking one day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. And what better way to put our best foot forward than a gorgeous pair of shoes? That we can still do. Spoil ourselves with splendid footwear.
On a recent trip to Toronto (that is, when we were still able to travel), a visit to the Bata Shoe Museum placed footwear firmly in the spotlight. And what a prosaic name for such an intriguing, colour-filled, fantasy trip through the development and design of shoes across 4 500 years. The museum, designed to symbolise a (slightly tilted) shoebox with an offset copper roof resembling a loose lid, holds a collection of 13 000 artefacts which are regularly rotated for public viewing. The collection was the idea of Sonia Bata of the well-recognised shoe manufacturer, and the entire exhibition truly was amazing.
It included everything, starting with tragically teeny-tiny shoes designed for Chinese women with bound feet, ceremonial shoes reflecting mythology, and red sequinned shoes after those in The Wizard of Oz and worn by Judy Garland. There were Adidas gold-winged sneakers inspired by Hermes, winged messenger of Ancient Greece, a space boot from the Apollo Space Program made for astronaut Jim Lovell, and Eastern Siberian boots of reindeer skin with fur trim and patterns out of tiny beads. Elton John’s silver-glitz platforms came with the anecdote that, when asked if he wore them while performing, he replied: “My dear! I wouldn’t have been seen dead in them onstage, I wore them shopping.”